When Dad told me this story – just a few months before he passed away – I was shocked. Of all the stories I had heard growing up, this one had been kept a secret. Maybe it wasn’t a secret but it had certainly slipped into the back files of his mind. Dad didn’t really think this was a story at all and “It isn’t really worth repeating.”, he said. Writing the update to the story, I did some research about the Straits and lobster there – found an article from the Toronto Star which puts another layer to the story about lobsters. Kind of interesting read for those of you who are lobster fans! (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1238462–new-brunswick-lobster-fishermen-fight-for-higher-prices)
“Oh, my goodness, Dad. This is funny!” I replied. I must confess that I didn’t understand a few aspects of the story since I didn’t really put the story into the context of World War II and the fact that fishermen didn’t have access to much needed fuel. After a few questions and a bit of research, however, this is the story that emerged. Enjoy!
Lobster Air (in Dad’s words)
Yes – lobster can fly – at least they did in Prince Edward Island during World War II! Truthfully, the crustaceans were assisted with their flight and it wasn’t that the pilots were particularly welcoming of their aerial hitch-hike either.
We, members of the RCAF Squadron, were on patrol in the Northumberland Straits watching for German Submarines. The Straits are located between Prince Edward Island and the “Mainland” – mainly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Today, the Confederation Bridge New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island makes the trek between the two locations a little easier. But, during World War II, the only way to “access” the area was by plane and air surveillance. Although there had never been sightings in the Straits, Germans had surfaced and were even so bold as to buy fish in Montreal. I never did confirm that was the truth, but the rumor was pretty exciting. Our mission was to criss-cross the Straits to watch for “enemy” subs. (Funny how some of my best friends today are German. Was sure is a strange thing!)
The Straits were well known for lobster. Since my favorite meal was lobster I felt I was not only defending my country, but also my palate! During lobster season, the fishermen were out in full force – not like today – but still there was many of them. Since fuel was rationed during the war, the fishermen had to use sailboats to fish.
Some of the pilots – to conduct their patrol- would fly close above the water. This would make a “slip-stream” behind the aircraft. This slip-stream would unintentionally (or not) cause the lobster farmers’ sailboats to tip over.
Oh boy, the fishermen became quite upset but it seemed there was little they could do.. until they figured out how they could retaliate. When the low-flying pilots flew too low, the fishermen threw lobster up at the aircraft. Some of the lobsters would become lodged in the wings. This wasn’t really too much of a problem. The fishermen felt they had had their “say” and the pilots were still able to fly without hazard.
The funny part of the story happened, though, when the pilots arrived back at base when the pilots took their planes to the maintenance crew for inspection. The crew were quite surprised to find lobster stuck in the aircraft. I guess for a while they figured the lobster jumped out of the water. No one could figure out how the lobsters managed to hitch a ride.
Finally, the story emerged. The low-flying pilots and their craft had unintentionally become, “Lobster Air”. I guess we may have been the first to ship lobster into PEI!